In 2012, Washington legalized the recreational use of cannabis. Because lawmakers in Washington consider cannabis use similar to alcohol consumption, the legislature recently passed a law intended to protect employees from adverse employment actions based solely on cannabis use occurring outside of work hours, and which does not impair job performance.
On May 9, 2023, Senate Bill 5132 was signed into law adding new sections to RCW 49.44. Beginning January 1, 2024, it will be unlawful for an employer to deny a job to an applicant because a pre-employment drug test is positive for cannabis use.
Employers can continue:
- Making hiring decisions based on scientifically valid drug screens, so long as the screening does not test for cannabis;
- Maintaining a drug and alcohol-free workplace or obligation to do so under federal law or regulation;
- Testing for cannabis use during random drug testing, post-accident drug testing, or reasonable suspicion drug testing; or
- Conducting pre-employment drug testing for cannabis if the applicant is seeking a position that requires a federal government background investigation or security clearance, a first responder or law enforcement type position, a position in the airline or aerospace industry, or a “safety sensitive” position for which impairment while working presents a substantial risk of death.
Notably, this law does not preempt state or federal laws requiring an applicant to be tested for controlled substances. This includes state or federal laws requiring applicants to be tested, or the way they are tested, as a condition of employment, receiving federal funding or federal licensing-related benefits, or as required by a federal contract.
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